Restaurant Momotaro, Sao Paulo

Out of the handful of times I had a chance to eat at a restaurant in Sao Paulo, one of the most memorable was a great value lunch time was at Restaurant Momotaro. It’s a newer restaurant and they do a tasting menu at lunch which was significantly more food than I was prepared for. Very well executed, tasty and filling.

The restaurant is located in quite a nice neighbourhood. I have a feeling it is one of the more affluent neighbourhoods based on the cars and the types of people. Given there was very little public transportation options, I took a taxi both here and back from the hotel I was staying at.

The interior is done up very nicely. Warm, modern yet touches of Japanese elements still dotted around.

There is quite a gap between this post and when I ate here, so the commentary will be pretty light. Here’s a nice salad with a ginger dressing complete with a light miso soup.

This cocktail was supposed to be a yuzu (e.g citrus) drink but ended up like a Japanese style Bloody Mary, spicy but tasty. They didn’t charge me for this drink strangely enough and when I pointed it out, the waiter sort of shrugged it off. Maybe it was because I was taking a lot of pictures.

Delicious tempura. I remember this was light, crispy and plenty of it. Accompanied by the classic tempura dipping sauce.

Crumbed vegetable cutlet.

The order of food came out rather rapidly and randomly. Maybe because it was so many courses for a lunch menu, the next came out even before I had finished the one before it. Here’s the sushi platter and in the foreground you can still see I had plenty of tempura and the vegetable cutlet yet to finish. Fortunately the sushi was not really going to go cold. The sampling of fish was superb though – a wide variety and even that dish alone would have been sufficient for a light lunch.

I think this yakitori chicken was probably the weakest dish. There was certainly plenty of it in this tiny bowl, but I found the brown sauce was a little dull and there was just simply too much that it almost felt like it was swimming in it.

I thought I was done with the mains but after that came yet another dish complete with some grilled fish, another cutlet dish and a teriyaki chicken was that superb – moisty, salty and just right.

Dessert came with in the form of ice cream and a syrup of some sort. Perfect as a way to finish off the meal although probably not very Japanese.

An amazingly affordable lunch time menu that came to the equivalent of about £20 (which is even more amazing for Brazil which isn’t as cheap as you expect).

Name: Restaurant Momotaro
Address: Av. Lins de Vasconcelos, 2747 São Paulo, 04112-011, Brazil

Sushi Leblon, Rio de Janeiro

Leblon is located at the far end of Ipanema, closer towards Barra and is easily walking distance if you have thirty of forty minutes to spare. It’s also home to one of the most trendy eating streets in the area, and also home to Sushi Leblon, a restaurant locally well known for using unusual combination of ingredients for Japanese style cuisine.

I decided to head out that way on one of the rainy days for lunch, where they open, maybe a little bit after since this is Brazil, at noon for their lunch service. I wasn’t the only one who turned up early, with another couple there obviously waiting for them to open. By the time that I left, maybe at one, it was busy, but not particularly booking-required style (although I did go in Rio’s off-peak season)

The menu is pretty extensive, and when I wanted to order a few of the interesting combinations as well as a sushi platter, my waitress looked rather alarmed and indicated it was going to be too much. We did a lot of gesturing as their English wasn’t great, and my touristic Portugese rather limited. I settled for three sample dishes, as well as a lychee-based caipirinha seeing as I was in an Asian restaurant.

I, and the others in the restaurant, ordered one of the sushi dishes that required little fried quails eggs. I got full vantage point of the preparation area since I was sitting at the sushi counter looking at how they organised it.

Beautifully paired and definitely excessively decadent, the quail egg nigiri came topped with a bit of salt and truffle oil, and then came with a piece of butterfish nigiri. The fish match was perfect since it was rich, and creamy in the mouth, much like the perfectly cooked egg whose yolk still burst when eating it. Umami, creamy, a great combination that I must remember.

I had also ordered the ceviche which had a good selection of different seafood, flavours and was delightful.

My final sushi was based on my love for grilled eel (unagi) and was well prepared, tasty and was definitely plenty for lunch.

Sushi Leblon is definitely one of those finer sushi restaurants you’ll find in this area. You get very high quality, although you pay the equivalent of London fine sushi restaurant prices for it.

Name: Sushi Leblon
Found at: R. Dias Ferreira, 256 – Leblon Rio de Janeiro, 22431-050, Brazil

Eating Well in Dublin

Dublin suffered a lot of things with the post dot-com crash of the early 2000s. With lots of investment from the EU, inflation rose rapidly, and just like the San Francisco area, Dublin became a mecca for all sorts of places where people could spend it – all the way from bars, clubs and restaurants. Fortunately prices seem to have stabilised a bit, and with more competition for the same Euros, Dublin offers many good quality places to dine for pretty good value.

I’ve been lucky enough to sample quite a few of Dublin’s offerings and, I have to admit, haven’t really had a very bad meal at all. There are plenty of options to choose from including your ubiquitous burrito joints, to sushi, malaysian and everything in between. Rather than list all the details for each restaurant (which would take much longer than time I have available), I will list some of the highlights over the past couple of weeks.

Restaurant at Donnybrook Fair (European restaurant)
You’ll often see a lot of locals carrying the white, D|F-labelled bags that belong to this up-scale market place. They also happen to have a restaurant upstairs to one of their (flagship?) stores. I read about their BBQ nights where they offer a decent value platter to share between two. Four of us popped in after work and it wasn’t hard to get a table at about 7pm although it filled up quickly after that. The dining room is bright, airy and the meal deal very great value. Appetiser samplers were a great appetite kickstarter with my favourite being the wholesome grilled mushroom and the prosciutto-wrapped fig. The BBQ meat platter soon arrived with grilled chicken, salmon, quail and a steak. I’ll admit the chicken probably had a bit too much time on the grill, but all the other bits were divine. A clever, light strawberry and coconut-lime mousse was served as dessert.

BBQ meal cost €25 for the 3 courses.

+353 1 668 3556, 89 Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, Dublin 4,

Bloom Brasserie (European Restaurant)
Located in the basement, my colleague recommended this nice brasserie serving fresh continental foods that was also pretty decent value. Not many vegetarian options on the set menu. Creamy, beautify mushroom soup to start followed by a perfectly cooked sea bream, carrot and butternut squash puree and lightly wilted baby spinach. A light chocolate mousse, raspberry coulis, topped with chopped hazelnuts for me to follow.

3 course set menu for €25

11 Baggot Street Upper Dublin 4, Co. Dublin, Ireland,

Cornucopia (Vegetarian Cafe/Restaurant)
A popular restaurant located on busy Wicklow Street, this place is slightly more cafe than restaurant (you order at the counter, collect your food and then hunt for a table because it’s so popular). A fresh water dispenser is located by the door and you have options that all looked pretty tempting. I was tempted by the Cashew baked aubergine with smoked paprika mash and pea sauce but then succumbed to the sounds of a daily special of smoked tofu parcels with two side salads that was really great value at €12.95.

19-20 Wicklow St Dublin 2, Ireland,

The Exchequer (Gastropub)
Voted one of Ireland’s best gastropubs I have to agree that the food here was so good, I came back on one of the weekends to sample a few of the other dishes. They do an amazing selection of cocktails as well (all recorded in the “Ledger of Liquor”) and I can highly recommend the Smoky Old Fashioned. Beautifully prepared, balanced and accompanied by an ice-cube ball that is guaranteed to outlast your drink. All of the food is fabulously presented, tasty and the only down-side I have to admit is the side of potato skins/fries that failed to be as crisp as they could be. Desserts (at least the gingerbread tea cake) is totally worth trying and massive enough to share between two. Definitely come here if you want some good food and drink. I’ll be back again if I can make it.

2 courses for €19.95 or 3 for €23.95 (choose any starter, main or dessert) only Sunday-Wednesday

3-5 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2,

The Green Hen (French)

A popular French brasserie that fills up quickly, I was able to nab a seat at the bar as I was early enough and dining alone. Had I arrived only half an hour later, it would have been impossible and I saw them turn away quite a few people. Cocktails are expertly made, with lots of care and perfected and they have an early bird menu at 3 courses for €22 from 5:30-7pm Sunday to Thursday.

33 Exchequer St Dublin 2, Co. Dublin, Ireland,

Michie Sushi (Japanese)
Located a bit in the ‘burbs, this tiny little sushi place is apparently more popular with take-away. Partly because there are only something like six or seven tables for two or four and located in a tiny little alleyway, hardly any parking. Unagi nigiri (my favourite type) was a generous portion of fish, lightly slathered in the traditional BBQ sauce and perfectly delicious. A couple of good rolls and you could roll me out of there. Good decent sushi that I haven’t had for a long time although not sure if I would make a trip out of the city specifically for that (if I was visiting Dublin). I think they do delivery and I’d probably opt for that if I lived in Dublin.

11 Chelmsford Lane, Ranelagh, Dublin 6,


Inamo is a Japanese restaurant that has sat in the heart of Soho for a long time. It’s a pretty well known for its “gimicky” touch table where you place your order via the complex menus. Apparently you used to be able to use the entire table top, instead the “touch” part is limited to the corner part of the table instead. Given the “service” is pretty much limited to people bringing you food, I find it a bit cheeky they still want you to pay 12.5%.

Here’s the menu divided into appetisers, mains, side dishes and drinks. Prices aren’t cheap either with most appetisers starting at almost £6 heading towards £8 and the mains averaging £15. Unfortunately the portions are on the small size as well.

Here’s one of the “small plates” of a california roll with only four pieces.

The aubergine was a much better dish. Silky flesh with lots of flavour. Once again a bit of a small portion.

I guess of the reasons that Inamo has managed to stay open is that it serves pretty tasty food and the “gimick” works well for the first visit. I’m not super keen to go back considering you get better value for money at many other London places and the service totally isn’t worth the 12.5%.

Name: Inamo
Found at: 134-136 Wardour St, W1F 8ZP

Dojima Ann

Japanese is expensive in the UK, so I thought it’d be a great opportunity to try some while we were here in San Francisco. Numerous places turned up but in the end we dropped into this one that I noticed around the downtown area that looked pretty good. Bright and clean from the outside, I was even more pleased stepping in to find the whole restaurant filled with Japanese people and a small TV playing some Japanese shows in the background.

I’m not confident that all the staff were Japanese, but they were at least Asian and the fact that queues formed shortly after a while made me think we hit something pretty good. We shared a mixed tempura that was both a very generous portion and stayed crisp. I’ll admit it was slightly greasy but only very just.

The chicken karage (fried chicken) was just as divine as well. I love putting the shiso pepper on it after the squeeze of lemon to try to cut through some of the grease (in this case not very greasy as well).

My sister continued the theme ordering a katsu chicken that she didn’t realise was a set meal also accompanied by udon soup and a salad. The portion serving was huge and a lot of rice was left over.

I opted for some sushi rolls. On the left was a soft shell crab roll and on the right an eel and cucumber roll. Both were very full, and very tasty indeed.

We both had a softdrink and I’m pretty sure that the total of our meal still came to about USD60 total.

Name: Dojima Ann
Found at: 219 O’Farrell Street San Francisco, CA 94102, United States
Website: No website found

Aburiya Kinnosuke

My friend Mike always talked about this wonderful Japanese place whenever he visited New York. I had a picture of a very traditional Japanese restaurant with rice paper walls, and still have the memory of Mike’s wonderful tale where him and another mate accidentally tore through one, or was it two of those walls. Hehe. Anyway, when we were catching up with some other relatives who were in town just to visit us, I thought we should try it out. We booked in advance (telephone only) and for a 1:30pm booking, we turned up just before 1pm and were seated immediately.

I’m sure their lunch menu is different from their dinner menu, but even the lunch menu was an overwhelming choice of a large number of things. I went for the recommend aburiya lunch selection showcasing so many things off the menu including the BBQ washu beef, and the miso cod fish. It also comes with miso soup, salad and a small bite-sized dessert.

Love the chopsticks obviously made from bamboo in this picture. A small but delightful detail.

The massive set of sashmi, rice, soup. Note that the wasabi here was real wasabi (so rare!). You can tell because you can see the wasabi root fibers as it’s been grated up, instead of a papery reconstituted green mound most restaurants serve. It also has less of a uppercut to the nose on contact because it’s pure wasabi, instead of the fusion of horseradish and wasabi powder normally used.

The wushu beef was sitting atop a griddle alight with a small flame to keep it hot. All the elements were really fresh, and have to say I was really impressed by the cod – perfectly done with a light miso sauce, grilled to perfection. So tasty.

Upon the recommendation of the waitress, we upgraded our dessert to a larger size because apparently the one that came with the set was only a biteful. Green tea tiramisu.

Service was amazing. Ok, so it’s proper Japanese. Still our waitress was very attentive, spent a lot of time with us (in contrast to other Manhattan joints that are ready to run away to serve the next patron) and we even got a few small bonus dishes (like edamame). It’s definitely one me over and thanks to Mike for the recommendation.

Name: Aburiya Kinnosuke
Found at: 213 East 45th St New York, New York

Sushi Samba

Craving some sushi rolls (the more westernised ones than the traditional ones), I decided that whilst in New York, we should head back to Sushi Samba, where latin america meets the east. I have to say that this visit wasn’t as great as the first time, but we some some nice things to eat.

My favourite dish of the night was the umami rich miso eggplant. Hearty chunks skewered and delicately roasted before being finished off with some miso sauce.

The rock shrimp tempura had a great kick, though failed to be as crisp as good tempura should be. Love rock shrimp though.

The corn fritter tempura definitely made up for that lack of crispiness and went well with the wasabi mayo they served it with. Could do with more kick.

Here’s the sushi bar.

And our yummy Samba 7 roll with lobster chunks.

And another roll that we had (can’t remember the name of this one)

I see on their website that they’ll be opening a London branch soon, so that will be interesting to watch the bloggersphere for how it’s taken. There’s a lot of brazilians in London so I hope they live up to the real thing.

Name: Sushi Samba 7
Found at: 87 7th Ave South, New York, New York.


I only had a short weekend to Chicago and had plenty to do so didn’t really have much time. Unfortunately there was no trip planned for Alinea, however Ajit suggested the very swank and busy Japonais. I’m always up for trying everything so Ajit booked it in with a lot of us.

Located by the river in Chicago, it obviously was a popular location. Plenty of tables and many of them full for the duration of our dinner obviously indicated it seemed to be one of the go-to places of the moment. It felt like it was trying to be a bit like Hakkasan, but seemed a bit frantic instead of the cool interior charm.

After almost no sleep in 24 hours, I found the intensity of all the questioning from the attendants honestly a little bit overwhelming but it was good that we could share a few of the starter dishes. I’m not really sure what this dish was involving fish and I can’t seem to match it to anything on the menu.

This one was the Ahi Tuna Ceviche – I love yuzu and this was one marinated with some white soy. The contrast between sharp citric and salty soy was great and didn’t overpower the tuna.

I think this is the Wagyu Robata – Smoked american wagyu-style with green and white asparagus, and wasabi ginger ponzu. The ponzu sauce worked really well. The shavings of green and white asparagus didn’t really do that much, even for texture.

Who doesn’t like steamed buns can just leave the room now. We ordered these Manju buns filled with braised pork, scallions and a sweet sour sauce. I made the mistake of trying the buns with the sauce and they were perfect without it. Unnecessarily weird fusion food going on here. I’d order these again and then just leave the sauce.

The Chilean seabass cartoccio arrived wrapped in plastic before the parcel was opened at the table. Many of the components failed to really work well except for the strong flavoured tomato compote that I was scraping against. Can’t really say that soy-butter really does it for me being surprisingly bland and dreary.

My main dish was the Tuna steak. It was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be (a good thing with all those appetisers) served with a roasted scallion potato puree and picked celery salad. It came with some tempura too FTW. Nicely cooked, delicious fish and plenty of flavours that actually worked well together.

Controlling my urge to order the Japanese Ribs, Gaz did that instead. What arrived was a pretty great sight that I was told tasted pretty good. I’m a bit skeptical to see how much of the red miso BBQ really came through, but they looked pretty darn good.

Overall a pretty great dining experience. I felt you paid a lot more for the atmosphere than necessarily for the food. Being a “western meets Japanese” concept I think they managed to hit the mark with some dishes whilst others definitely need more work on balancing texture and flavour combinations. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Found at: 600 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Il

Cocolo Ramen

Looking for a light dinner, Alex suggested we head out after our evening Tiergarten run to Cocolo Ramen for, as you can guess, some refreshing Ramen. It’s a tiny little place, just down from the hotel I was staying at and next door to a nice sushi place (I’m guessing owned by the same folks). It doesn’t look particularly look big from the outside, although I think they had tables at back. We got to sit at a full counter experience where you pretty much look at the people preparing your meal. Very Japanese style.

Soft techno beats pulse from a tiny ipod nano into the surrounds, and I start to notice the interesting mix of artistic Berlin fusing with the traditional Japanese styled restaurant. Like the napkin holder, for example.

The menu is short and simple, and just like a proper Japanese restaurant, focusing on a small set of variations of the same dish – ramen.

Alex orders some edamame whilst we wait although it’s not too long before the ramen arrives.

Viola. Rich hearty broth. Being on my vegetarian day, I crossed my fingers hoping the broth was vegetarian as I didn’t quite understand the German-Japanese-English trifecta of message passing. Oh well. It was still very good.

With people constantly popping in, even as we left our reasonably late dinner, I’m guessing this place is doing pretty well. Try the calpico soda here too! Mmmm. I love that stuff.

Name: Cocolo Ramen
Found at: Gipsstrasse 3, 10119, Berlin, Germany

Dining at Dos Palillos

I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in Berlin’s Casa Camper for the last couple of weeks. It’s voted 7th traveller’s favourite hotel in Berlin on TripAdvisor and it’s definitely my favourite so far. Their restaurant, under renovation during my first week’s stay reopened last week and I asked reception about it as the chef’s jacket with El Bulli’s name caught my eye.

Apparently the head chef, Albert Rauric worked at El Bulli as their head chef, traveling back and forth between Spain and Berlin to attend to his restaurants. Inspired by Spanish tapas style, and enthused by Asian ingredients (perhaps via his Asian wife) each plate extremely well executed and well deserving of their Michelin Bib Gourmand award.

Above is a photo looking down the long bench where you face the chefs as they prepare your food in a wonderful open kitchen format. Everything is bright and glittering, a stark contrast to the dimly lit streets of Berlin and a warm welcome from the outside cold.

Three of us dined here and rather than sitting all directly in front, we took the corner of the bench enabling the perfect balance between intimate dinner conversations and opportunities to watch our delightful meal being prepared.

We started with a glass of German equivalent prosecco, although they also brought us a brightly coloured pink grapefruit aperitif. Slightly tart, and perfectly refreshing, the bubbles in this small shot glass helped prepare our palettes for the journey to come.

Above are some of the small sauces that would later be used to accompany the various dishes. But first, our first dish arrived, tsukemono or marinated radish, green apple and wasabi. I’m a big fan of radishes and expecting perfectly crunchy small bites, each of these had slightly softened from their dressing and at the same time retaining the perfect amount of bite. The apple adds a slightly tart dimension and the wasabi used to lift the dish just that little bit more. A starter that showed us what a journey we were in for.

Soon arriving was chicken skin, deep fried with curry and served with sweet sour sauce. It’s hard to argue for the flavours and crunch by any skin deep fried, yet these small bites weren’t in the least greasy to eat. Extremely moreish.

Next arrived Sunomono or Japanese style salad marinated with rice-vinegar vinaigrette and smoked mackerel. This was perhaps my least favourite dish because I’m not the biggest fan of seaweed however I still appreciated the complex flavours and differences provided by the complex textures and flavours from each seaweed variety.

We moved from Japan to Vietnam with these Vietnamese Summer Rolls – rice paper, omelette, chicken, basil and coriander with crushed peanuts and slices of chilli. I have to say these disappeared almost instantly. They were that good. I could have appreciated more heat, but I’m guessing a lot is adapted for local tastes which don’t include huge degrees of spice.

We moved onto the aemono or octopus cucumber salad. Toasted sesames added a rich nutty flavour to the dish, and each bite filled with umami provided by the miso paste in the dressing. The cucumbers brought freshness and the octopus so tender and soft each piece almost melting in the mouth. I particularly enjoyed picking up each piece of this dish, savouring every last element.

Just like at Noma many of the chefs deliver the food. In this case, a small tray topped with four small bowls and a tea pot. Three of the bowls filled with contents for a fresh soup, and the soup poured out in front of us. The last bowl, filled with coconut cream, our chef spooned on completing the thai soup (tom kha gai) with prawn tofu and fresh herbs. We oo-ed at the finishing touches at the table and the photo really doesn’t do it justice to the complex flavours that laid in the broth. Their interesting twist was to add small pieces of grapefruit.

Our tempura dish turned out to be filled with sardines that we dipped into a ginger soy sauce.

From where we sat, we could see the robata grill and on top, pieces of pork slowly roasting. We could see the smoke wafting to their ventilation fans and two of us (the ones who could eat pork) hoping with all of our might those pieces were destined for our plates and bellies.

But first arrived the prawn dumplings filled with prawn and pork belly. Expecting a stronger pork flavour, Sha Sha duly noted that it tasted much more like prawn, touched with a bit of pork fat instead of a stronger pork flavour than expected.

Stef, unable to eat the shellfish ended up with some nice vegetable dumplings.

More fun arrived with a version of te maki that we turned into a Do-It-Yourself sushi dish.

Here was the result of one of my attempts.

They even provided fresh wasabi, something I know particularly hard to come by and appreciated and savoured in each of our mouths.

Closest to us from the kitchen stood the wok station, and from here we could see one of the chefs prepare our next course.

Baby vegetable wok. We could tell it focused on root vegetables (perfectly in season) including carrots, parsnips, celery and what we think was chestnut and a gourd of some kind. Slightly smoky, just cooked yet crisp, this dish was perfect.

Another fish dish arrived in the form of char grilled mackerel with red onions and miso mayonnaise. Not much to say here other than noting how beautiful the presentation was and another perfectly executed dish.

Sha Sha doesn’t eat beef, so she received a chicken yakitori grilling over the same coal robata as the pork soon to arrive.

For the rest of us, we got a “japo burger” – homemade steamed bread, beef, ginger, cucumber and shiso. I loved this concept. Somehow they captured the lightness of bao-style bread, slightly toasted each side and the perfect bite-sized portion filled with juicy beef lightly seasoned with that ginger flavour. A whole plate of these near me would not have lasted five minutes. Fortunately we only had one after so much food.

Our final dish was hong shao rou or braised pork jaw, laquered cantonese style and finished on the charcoal grill. This was our dish! Sliced into delicately thin slices, each piece melting perfectly into the mouth and packed with flavour. Being our last dish I definitely took the time to draw out all the flavours in this one. Stef, the non-pork eater, got a “char xiu bao” made vegetarian style although Sha Sha and I seemed confused since “char xiu” means BBQ pork. He assured us their interpretation was not.

A long slew of dishes later, we arrived at dessert. Our first being a small mango flan. Made with coconut milk and mango essence, a surprise laid at the bottom of the bowl of slightly caramelised ginger pieces.

Finally wrapping up our meal, we finished with pandanus ice-cream, tangerine compote and “burnt” milk skin”. Not on the menu, they finished the dish off with crushed coffee beans, and what we confirmed with them later, crushed cardamom. The “burnt milk skin” tasted slightly malty and not burnt at all and I am always a huge fan of anything with pandan.

Looking back at what we had it was a bargain meal for their EUR60 price. They had many reasonably priced wines and sakes, and several interesting alternative aperitif (try their yuzu tonic if you’re into your bitter citrus fruits like I am). Service was extremely friendly, the atmosphere warmed by the open kitchen, the fact that chefs deliver the food they cook and the depth of flavours from every single dish.

I’m definitely going to try to return before I leave Berlin, knowing that you can also order a la carte tapas or full dish style.

Name: Dos Palillos
Found at: Casa Camper Hotel